Category Archives: Weirdo Folk Music

THURSTON MOORE: 12 String Meditations For Jack Rose VDSQ – Solo Acoustic Volume Five (LP, Vin Du Select Qualitite VDSQ-005)

Thurston Moore - 12 String Meditations For Jack Rose front cover

Thurston Moore was, of course, the frontman of my all-time favourite band, Sonic Youth. He – and they – are therefore responsible for a hefty wedge of records in my collection. As a band, their output is pretty huge and varied in style; as a solo artist, even more so. This album was released in 2011, according to Discogs, although no release date is given on the sleeve – the only date mentioned is that the recordings for the album were made in ‘early 2010’. Sonic Youth ended in late 2011, after the unfortunate shenanigans going on between Moore and bandmate/wife Kim Gordon, so this album was released at around that time. Before and after that time, Moore is/was involved in a relentless number of solo and side projects – he’s famously a fan of records, musical history and the avant garde, and seems keen to make his mark in recorded form whenever possible.

Jack Rose, for whom this album is named, was a much-loved American experimental guitarist, who sadly died in 2009. The ten tracks on 12 String Meditations For Jack Rose, performed on an acoustic twelve-string guitar, are in a Jack Rose style, but are I think original Moore compositions. The rear sleeve mentions “song titles courtesy Byron Coley”, suggesting that the pieces on the record were played and recorded first; named second. Vin Du Select Qualitite released ten of these Solo Acoustic albums, including work by Chris Brokaw, Sir Richard Bishop and Bill Orcutt. Read about the label, and its output, here.

The artwork for the record is in the style of the whole Solo Acoustic series: thin white card stock, typography in Trajan, and a high-contrast monotone image on the cover. It feels like it’s letterpressed. On the rear, simple centred type has credits and a track listing. It’s clean, neat and slightly boring, although I don’t know who is pictured on the cover, so perhaps that carries a story that would add depth. The design is credited to Anthony Pappalardo, which is the name of a famous skateboarder, according to Google. Is this the same person? Who knows. An ‘Artist’s Edition’ of the record also exist, with ‘limited exclusive artwork’. It’s signed and numbered by Thurston Moore, limited to 100 copies, and on coloured vinyl.

YUKI TSUJII: I’m Rubbish But I Love You (7″, Blank Editions The Solo Series 006, 2014)

Yuki Tsujii - I'm Rubbish But I Love You

Reading about a record that’s a limited edition, has handmade elements to its packaging, and that is somehow unique as an artefact, is always a way to find my interest piqued. So, my first record from Blank Editions, but the sixth in their ‘The Solo Series’ of releases that has also included records by Charles Boyer, Joseph Coward, Douglas Hart, Thurston Moore and Ted Milton, was meant to find its way to me soon after I read about it.

Yuki Tsujii is a member of ‘Japanese four-piece acid punk band’ (thanks, Wikipedia) and on this 7″ record gives us two parts of ‘I’m Rubbish But I Love You’, an organic drone piece/field recording construction that sounds equally pleasant at 33 or 45 rpm. At 45 – which I think is the correct speed – it’s a concise, shimmering piece, somewhat akin to Library Tapes being played on the other side of a forest; at 33, it’s additionally eerie and (obviously) more lingering.

The packaging – presumably the work of David Santiago Blanco, one of the two people behind Blank Editions, who is also a designer – is a combination of ‘pro’ and handmade. Professionally-printed labels on the record, a printed wraparound tracing paper image on the sleeve coexist with a photocopied additional wraparound and a hand-stamped envelope which purportedly contains a leaf taken from a Hackney park. (I’m not sure about the latter; I didn’t open the envelope yet).

Links: Yuki Tsujii on Facebook / Blank Editions

-a+M: Dials (10”, Lancashire And Somerset L&S 005, ?)

-a+M: Dials

The random number generator that I use to pick a record to write about on here dumped me right at that awkward ‘pre-alphabet’ part of the list – the place where artist names start with numbers or symbols rather than a common-or-garden letter.

So, the mysteriously-named -a+M, and an equally mysterious record. This and a couple of other things from the Lancashire And Somerset label were, I think, bought at the same time, as I like the label’s style and wanted, a little while ago, to get a mini-overview of some of their releases.

I have no idea who -a+M are, the label’s website doesn’t offer much help, and it’s not the kind of name that lends itself to easy Googling. The rear sleeve does suggest that there was once a website at, which would have been helpful (I hope), but it’s no longer in existence (unfortunately).

The record contains eight tracks of mellow acoustic guitar instrumentals, with two guitars weaving their melodies into each other in a way that hints at post-rock complexity and structure, but with a sound that feels more like experimental folk music. It’s not unpleasant at all, and it has a sonic clarity that’s refreshing and precise.

The artwork is based around a Dials concept led by the record’s title: the front and back cover shows cleaned-up and modified graphics of this fallout decay and dose guide: ‘The Commander’s Radiation Guide’, manufactured in the 1960s by a German company called Nestler. It’s been altered to include the artist name on the front, and the label name, track titles and catalogue number on the back. A 10″-sized numbered insert (mine is 264 of 300) shows two images of what I presume to be dials that were part of the inner workings of this radiation guide and calculator. It’s a really nice-looking artefact, this record; it would be great to see a limited edition of one that was packaged in a real Commander’s Radiation Guide, screwed together in the centre and mounted on a packet with date stamps and handwritten notes, as the two-dimensional sleeve suggests may have once existed.

Links: Lancashire And Somerset

VARIOUS: By The Fruits… You Shall Know The Roots (3LP, Time-Lag/Eclipse FRUITS/ROOTS, ?)

This triple album could be seen as an important part of the early development of a now-popular ‘new psychedelic folk’ scene. I’m not sure when it came out, but it was several years ago, before all kinds of mainstream attention started getting paid to weirdo neo-folk singers and bands who were picking up the strands left by John Martyn, Vashti Bunyan, Nick Drake et al. Much of that mainstream attention may well also have been due to the trend for such music being used to flog mobile phones in TV/cinema advertising, but I’ll gloss over that for now, lest I smash my computer to pieces in rage at the thought of another ad showing a happy, diverse mix of bland (brand) ciphers acting FREE! and NATURAL! by signing up to a particular pay-monthly plan with a multinational telephony company.

The artists featured on this collection get a single album side each. They are:

  • Six Organs Of Admittance
  • Jack Rose
  • The MV/EE Medicine Show (with Chris Corsano)
  • Dredd Foole
  • Fursaxa
  • Joshua & Kemialliset Ystävät

…and that’s a rather impressive line-up, isn’t it? The packaging is real nice – a needlepoint-style image printed onto textured paper that feels almost like fabric, which folds out to create a giant poster. Naturally, I haven’t folded out the poster in order to stick it up on my wall; I’m too much of a record packaging preserver to defile it in that way. Sometimes I like to unfold it for a look, though, before putting it carefully back as it was.

Time-Lag Records, run from Portland, Maine, USA, were one of the two labels that put out this collection. They’re run by the brilliantly-named Nemo Bidstrup, who has always been amazingly friendly and pleasant to deal with by e-mail (I have bought a lot of his wares over the years). He not only runs one of those labels whose releases sell out pretty much instantly, but also stocks all kinds of excellent ‘outsider’ music in his shop. I would link to his website, but it seems to be undergoing some kind of transformation right now, and hence isn’t working so well…

Once, I went to a gig in Oxford which featured Taurpis Tula supported by a band, whose name I forget, that I in advance discovered counted Nemo within their ranks. It was great, but afterwards shyness took hold and I didn’t introduce myself, despite having corresponded with the guy just days before the show, hinting at my being there. Pretty lame, not taking advantage of perhaps the only time ever that I would have had the chance to say ‘hello’ in real life.

Taurpis Tula, coincidentally, were a duo featuring David Keenan, who is in some ways the Scottish Nemo Bidstrup – he runs a shop (Volcanic Tongue) stocking all kinds of weirdo musics, and he’s a musician himself. He also writes for the Wire magazine, amongst other publications. There are a lot of these multi-disciplinary outsider artist type people out there. I like the ideal – being interested in stuff, rather than a particular thing.

Jack Rose, who features on here, sadly died last year, which was an incredibly sad surprise. I saw him play in Oxford once too, and shyness didn’t overcome me that time – I had a brief chat and shook his hand after seeing an extraordinary set. I value that meeting now. He died aged 38.

THE OLIVIA TREMOR CONTROL: Black Foliage (2LP, Flydaddy BRRC1005781, 1999)

The Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage

Some time ago, in the midst of my letter-writing exploits of the past, I regularly corresponded with a guy called Simon who was at university in, as I recall, Bristol. I’d first been in touch as he’d put out some weird and wonderful fanzines, and he in turn ordered some of mine, and we struck up a postal friendship that often included trading cassettes of stuff that we were into at the time. He provided me with a lot of really good stuff – anything from Aphex Twin’s I Care Because You Do to my first exposure to Can and, indeed, the recorded output of Leonard Nimoy. Yes, this was home-taping at its most illegal, but rather than killing music it sprung me into action to find out (and purchase) records by these people. Simon also provided me with the first CDR of music I’d ever been given, which was very exciting and futuristic back in the swirling mists of the early ’00s when the CD player in my hi-fi was generally unused, save for the odd Christmas gift of a Jon Spencer CD here and a Pebbles box set there.

On that CDR, which I retain to this day (and still listen to) was a wide mix of out-there music, which included a track by The Olivia Tremor Control that stood out as a particularly weird, freaked-out take on 1960s psychedelia of the Fifty Foot Hose/Silver Apples ilk. A couple of years later I chanced upon Black Foliage in a second-hand store somewhere and thought, after being exposed to just that one track of this band’s music before, that here would be an album that finally took centre stage as the ultimate psychedelic music. Well, it’s not quite that – it’s great, if somewhat sprawling and less whacked-out than I had expected, but it still leaves me looking for the ultimate head-trip album to jettison me into the stratosphere. Any hints?

FUTURE PILOT A.K.A. VS. RANJIT NAGAR CHORUS/KIM FOWLEY: We Shall Overcome/Night Flight To Memphis (7″, Creeping Bent BENT 025, 1997)

Future Pilot A.K.A. vs...

Future Pilot A.K.A. is Sushil K. Dade, one of The Soup Dragons and a sometime BMX Bandit too, if I’m correctly informed. I’m not so sure what the deal is behind this single and another ‘Future Pilot A.K.A. vs…’ 7″ that I’ve got, and how/why they came about, but this one is certainly an interesting meeting of minds. Ranjit Nagar Chorus are, I presume, an authentic group: hard to know, though, as the internet tells me nothing about them beyond the fact that they appear on this record. Kim Fowley is, of course, the insanely connected line drawn from 1960s punk through 1980s punk through 2000s reflection.

I picked this record up during a very brief period writing reviews for the University of Reading’s in-house paper. The agreement was that the writers would regularly get together and dig through a box of submitted releases, picking whatever took our fancy. I grabbed this one quick as it ticked a couple of boxes for me – not only a Soup Dragons connection, but also Kim Fowley? It must be worth hearing… I never did review it, though. Shirking my reponsibilities.

Listening back now, I imagine that the reason I didn’t review is that there’s just not too much of consequence that can be said about it. The Ranjit Nagar Chorus side is an Indian-tinged indie dance tune in the vein of late-period Soup Dragons; the Kim Fowley side is a nicely hazy, echoed-up swirl of psychedelic navel-gazing. But neither really leap off of the turntable. ‘It’s all just so much fluff’, as somebody said on an episode of Seinfeld once.

Great cover photo, though – evocative as you like.

JERUSALEM AND THE STARBASKETS/HUSH ARBORS: I cannot radiato without you/Mr. Bones (7″, The Great Pop Supplement GPS30, 2008)

Jerusalem and the Star Baskets/Hush Arbors

Look at that vinyl – it’s a joy to behold! The gorgeous orange/green split reflects the colours of the band names on either side of the skimpy insert that’s also held within this record’s plastic sleeve. Plain, simple, effective. Love it!

The Great Pop Supplement is a label I’m inclined to buy every release from, as they’ve proved consistent form not only in putting out interesting, out-there music, but they also package stuff brilliantly and uniquely. You don’t get a two-coloured MP3 arriving in five seconds after an iTunes download, do you? There’s more to music than just, er, music. The label is run by Dom, the guy that previously ran Earworm, another inspirational label with a ton of fantastic releases under its belt. I’m sure I read in an old fanzine somewhere that Dom’s inspiration for starting up Earworm came from Keith, the guy behind Wurlitzer Jukebox, a doubly special label that seemed to in some ways signify the early days of the whole alt-folk/post-rock scenes that are now such a massive influence over modern independent music. So you see how the baton gets passed from person to person, and the creativity continues? It’s inspiring!

Oh, and what of the music on this record you ask? Well, I’ll just whip out my jukebox-hole-adapter and give it a spin.

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets: Fuzzy, droney modern take on ’60s R&B. Like an out-take from a sedate Monks session, heard through a filter of Elephant 6 bands and perhaps with a sliver of Sebadoh in there too. Short and sweet.

Hush Arbors: Whacked out, skiffley foresty folk music. Sounds like fun was had. According to the liner notes, ‘Recorded at The Bong, London’. Say no more.